Daily Dopplers: Mark Reynolds and Mike Schmidt

Posted on November 2, 2010

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You did not misread that title. Although Mike Schmidt was decidedly better than Mark Reynolds is, Reynolds’ career path to this point mirrors Schmidt’s more closely than anyone else in history.

Like the young Schmidt, Reynolds is a raw and athletic third baseman with power and speed. Like Schmidt did, Reynolds has led the league in strikeouts during his age 24-26 seasons. Both men rate as patient hitters, though Reynolds (career-high 86 walks in 596 plate appearances this season) is not yet Schmidt’s equal in that regard.

Schmidt reached the big leagues sooner and had his red-flag season (.196/.324/.373 in 1973) at a younger age, but Reynolds may yet have Schmidt’s prodigious power potential. Let’s take a closer look at each player.

Mark Reynolds

2010 Stats: .198/.320/.433, 32 HR, 211 SO

Career (through age 26): .242/.334/.482, 121 HR, 42/58 SB

Reynolds looked like a budding superstar in 2009, when he clubbed 44 homers and swiped 24 bases. The ball flew off his bat, and landed farther from home plate than anyone else’s homers. Reynolds and the Diamondbacks agreed to a three-year, $13.5-million contract extension with an $11-million 2013 option last offseason.

The nightmare that was 2010 for Reynolds deserves to explained somewhat, however. Yes, he fell shy of the batting average Mendoza line, but Reynolds’ batted-ball luck was miserable. He hit just .257 on balls in play, against a .300 xBABIP. His strikeouts make the impact of that misfortune somewhat less jarring than they might be otherwise, but here is his adjusted line after correcting his batted balls to their expected results: .221/.339/.456, a .795 OPS that would have moved him from the wrong to the right side of average.

What does Reynolds project to do in 2011? Let’s use Schmidt as an indicator.

Mike Schmidt

1976 Stats: .262/.376/.524, 38 HR, 149 SO

Career (through age 26): .252/.369/.500, 131 HR, 74/109 SB

Schmidt certainly was better than Reynolds will ever be, and that had begun to show by the time he was 26. Schmidt’s OPS was 38 percent better than the league average during his first five seasons, while Reynolds has been just eight percent better than average so far in his less illustrious career. Still, the two clearly share a number of traits. If Reynolds gets anything close to the 705 plate appearances Schmidt accumulated in 1976, he will walk 100 times just like Schmidt did. He merely needs to make more contact.

Schmidt started doing that at age 27 in 1977, when he struck out 27 fewer times and had a career year. Reynolds won’t match Schmidt’s numbers from that season (.274/.393/.574, 38 HR, 104 BB), but he could improve on the same magnitude.

Let’s assume that, as these things tend to do, Reynolds’ batted-ball luck evens out next year. Our baseline projection for him is thus the same .221/.339/.456 (.795 OPS) I mentioned earlier. Now, adjust his numbers up by 7.4 percent, which is the percentage that Schmidt improved in 1977. That gives us an even prettier line:

.237/.364/.490 (.854 OPS)

Suddenly, Reynolds looks more like his 2009 self (.892 OPS) than his 2010 iteration (.753). He still presents a ton of risk, but the Diamondbacks might want to reconsider their reported hope of trading Reynolds in the name of increasing their offense’s contact rate. Reynolds will be back at full strength in 2011.

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